Sunday, 20 November 2022

Hvar Nominated in 3 Categories in 2023 Travel + Leisure Awards

November 20, 2022 - The international media love affair with the island of Hvar continues, with Croatia's premier island nominated in 3 categories doe the prestigious 2023 Travel + Leisure World's Best Awards. 

When I bought my house in Jelsa on the island of Hvar way back in 2002, I had not heard of the island 2 days before I arrived. It looked very pretty, but I had no idea just how pretty. While walking by the harbour, there was a board with a map of the island, on which was written that the island of Hvar was one of the 10 most beautiful islands in the world. I had chosen well. 

That famous statement - I heard it EVERYWHERE after that - came from the 1997 Conde Nast Readers Awards, where Hvar made it into the top 10 islands in the world, as it does pretty much every year, sometime (as in 2019) as the number one island in the world. 

And it is not just Conde Nast that keeps Hvar in the spotlight - the island features regularly in various Best of lists. And the latest one is one where you can play a part - the 2023 Travel + Leisue World's Best Awards, where Hvar has been nominated in no less than 3 categories:

-              Best islands in Europe - Hvar

-              Best cities in Europe - Hvar

-              Best hotels in Croatia - Sunčani Hvar Hotels, hotel Adriana

Voting is open until February 27, 2023, and there is an extra incentive of cash prizes of up to $15,000 cash, as well as a luxury cruise for two fo those who vote. 

You can take part by voting here. 

Think you know eveything about this amazing island, or looking to discover more about Hvar? Just as I knew nothing about the island when I moved there, so I was blown away by the incredible things I discovered living there. Put the beaches and nightlife to one side for the moment, and check out 10 things that blew my mind about Hvar after I bought a house there - I am confident that 90% of locals on the island will learn something about Hvar from this video. 


What is it like to live in Croatia? An expat for 20 years, you can follow my series, 20 Ways Croatia Changed Me in 20 Years, starting at the beginning - Business and Dalmatia.

Follow Paul Bradbury on LinkedIn.

Croatia, a Survival Kit for Foreigners is now available on Amazon in paperback and on Kindle.



Friday, 29 July 2022

Sunčani Hvar Hotels First in Croatia to Join UNESCO Sustainable Travel Pledge!

July 29, 2022 - Sunčani Hvar Hotels are the first group in Croatia to join the UNESCO Sustainable Travel Pledge, or UNESCO's sustainable tourism program.

This program, promoted by UNESCO and Expedia, one of the leading online booking platforms, is the first of its kind created to promote sustainable tourism and heritage conservation on a global scale. Signatories implement sustainable practices in their business and encourage positive change in the travel and tourism industry.

Through this program, all Sunčani Hvar Hotels received the UNESCO "Sustainable Travel Pledge" certificate, which signifies their commitment to achieving international sustainable development goals. The aforementioned includes a whole range of activities such as supporting the local community and suppliers, energy saving through green renewable energy sources and advanced energy efficiency systems, implementing waste separation and disposal systems, implementing digital solutions for improved business processes, and minimizing the use of plastic packaging, to name a few. 


"As a company, we are proud to be the first hotel group in Croatia to join the UNESCO sustainable tourism program. Green entrepreneurship is the future of business and is the key direction of the long-term development strategy of Sunčani Hvar. So this year, we opened an eco-hotel in the town of Hvar, Beach Bay Hvar, designed according to the principles of sustainability, which offers guests a unique, luxurious, and ecologically conscious vacation," said the President of the Management Board, Gordana Tomičić.



Beach Bay Hvar Hotel is the first green hotel in the town of Hvar that strives to be environmentally friendly. It is located in a quiet bay in the center of Hvar town with carefully designed interior details and natural materials. One of the goals during the hotel's renovation was to achieve the hotel's energy independence, which was achieved by installing a solar power plant, the first of its kind on the island of Hvar. Through the efficient use of energy, water, and materials and by providing quality service, Beach Bay Hvar offers its visitors an environmentally conscious vacation based on natural resources.

To follow the latest sports news in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Wednesday, 4 May 2022

Suncani Hvar Continues Investment Cycle: New Riva Marina Hotel Opens in June!

May 4, 2022 - The new-and-improved Riva Marina Hotel by Suncani Hvar opens in Hvar town just in time for the summer! 

The start of summer is well and truly around the corner, though we're already feeling a breath of what it used to be with a tourism boom since the long Easter holiday weekend. With Covid measures lifted and travelers back to planning trips as scheduled, all forecasts reveal a standout summer ahead, which will be enhanced this year on Hvar thanks to the newly renovated Riva Marina Hotel. 



Namely, Suncani Hvar Hotels continues with intensive investments in 2022 to strategically reposition its portfolio towards high-quality offers and services. The most significant investment this year is the complete renovation of the Riva Marina Hotel, worth 40 million kuna. The planned opening of the newly renovated hotel is at the beginning of June.



Hotel Riva, located in the center of Hvar, is one of the first hotels in Hvar town, opening in 1914, precisely 15 years after the historic Hotel Elisabeth. It was named Hotel Kovačić after the initial founder of the hotel and named 'Riva' in 2006 when it was completely renovated. In 2022, this century-old hotel with striking and original architecture will change its name to Riva Marina, emphasizing its first-class position in the heart of Hvar's marina. The hotel is intended for guests who expect superior service and high-quality accommodation and will primarily be focused on the British and American markets.


rivamarina13.jpeg"Today, trends in the hotel industry are changing rapidly, and it is important to keep up with new challenges and competition, both in Croatia and in the wider world market. The Riva Marina hotel renovation confirms the company's development strategy, aimed at continuously improving the quality of portfolios and services for high-paying guests, which will further raise the competitiveness of the entire Hvar destination," said Gordana Tomičić, President of the Management Board.




Thus, the Riva Marina Hotel will have 50 new unique rooms and suites ready for this season, providing every guest with complete comfort and enjoyment. Carefully designed and executed interior design further emphasizes the historic building itself, and its quality continues the direction harmonized with the most prestigious Hvar hotel Palace Elisabeth. The newly renovated hotel will also have a new restaurant and bar concept, designed according to the latest standards and adapted to modern world travelers. Guests will enjoy a variety of delicacies and drinks on the iconic outdoor terrace that offers a unique view of the yachts and marina.


The project was entrusted to the architectural studio Tissa from Poreč, the interior design by Oto Blaha, and the contractor Kvantum from Zagreb.

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated lifestyle section.

Friday, 4 March 2022

Sunčani Hvar Hotels Spring Specials: Preseason Deals at Adriana & Amfora!

March 4, 2022 - Because you don't have to wait until the summer to visit Croatia's sunniest island. Sunčani Hvar Hotels Spring Specials are here! 

It's no surprise that the glamourous Hvar town is one of the busiest summer hotspots in Croatia. Still, many may not know that the popular town is also a gem in the offseason months - and you get to experience it without the peak season crowds. 

As a way to tempt travelers to Croatia's sunniest island in the calm before the tourism storm, Sunčani Hvar Hotels Spring Specials are here, with enticing offers at two of its most in-demand hotels - Adriana & Amfora!

Namely, spice up your Easter break with a minimum 2-night stay at Adriana spa hotel, with prices starting from 59 EUR per person and breakfast included! But that's not all. Adriana guests will receive a bottle of house wine and a 10% discount at its restaurants and bars during their stay. This offer is valid for the month of April with a free upgrade upon availability. 


And if you can't make it in April but still want to explore the charms of Hvar this preseason? 

Amfora resort has also announced a Spring Special during one of the most beautiful periods to visit the island. From 51 EUR per person with breakfast included (and a minimum 2-night stay), guests also receive a bottle of house wine, a 10% discount at its restaurant and bars, and a free upgrade upon availability. This offer, however, is valid from April 20 to June 1, 2022! 


And should you need another reason to visit Hvar? 

The island Hvar was voted the #1 island in Europe according to Condé Nast Readers’ Choice Awards, with readers naming its abundant nature, culture, and rich history as to why you should visit. 

“With warm summers and mild winters, the island of Hvar is the sunniest spot in Croatia—there are over 2,800 hours of sunshine annually. It may be known for its beaches and turquoise water, but there’s another side to this resort island. From the town of Hvar on the island’s southern shore, make the slow, uphill climb to Tvrđava Fortica, a 13th-century fortress with the best views on the island. Pro tip: To see Hvar’s spectacular fields of lavender in full bloom, visit in early summer. The harvest takes place in late July, but you can buy all sorts of scented souvenirs in the local markets year-round,” writes Condé Nast Traveler.

Need we say more?

For more on travel in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Tuesday, 10 August 2021

Pharos Bayhill Hotel on Hvar Full: Amazing 2021 Success Story

August 10, 2021 - With the Pharos Bayhill Hotel on Hvar full at the moment, TCN looks back at how the hotel started out back in 2016 and the newest adaptation in 2021. 

The tourist season is going well for Croatia in 2021, and if the crowded streets of coastal Croatia are not enough proof, the guest count of Pharos Bayhill Hotel in Hvar Town, one of Croatia's top island destinations, says it all. Every room is filled as a fantastic season continues for one of the swankiest accommodations on the island.

Dating back to the 60s, Hvar's Pharos Hotel, a member of the Sunčani Hvar hotel chain, received a makeover in 2016. As TCN reported on the opening party five years ago, not only did the event see Hvar's VIP and locals attending the main event, but the hotel was already filled with guests who had started arriving two weeks before the official opening. And from the very start, it targeted young people.

After a decade of no investments, Pharos was the first hotel to stand out for Sunčani Hvar. From the start, its concept was adjusted to the younger crowd, those we'd now call millennials (both those who fit the group age-wise and for anyone who feels like one).

These adjustments to the younger market were casual, informal, and evident in every single detail – from the room design (with pop art comic strip decorations) to the uniforms and the attitudes of the employees.

The hotel's target markets were the UK and US, and the effort was rewarded with success back in 2018 when the Times magazine praised Pharos for being affordable and it made it to the list of top 30 best holidays to be had in Croatia that year.

Still, one could say the price is a relative term.

Affordable for an average UK citizen, it may not really be the case for the same target groups from Croatia, Slovenia, Austria, and Germany. Pharos provides quality accommodation, but for people who don't look for four or five stars hotels, but want a quality three-star accommodation. Of course you have to be ready to pay for it.


Inviting pool at Pharos © Pharos Hvar Bayhill Hotel

With a quality reputation building for Pharos, the dramatic plot twist in 2020 tourism required them to adapt the hotel to achieve the success it currently enjoys.

With a brief look around the terrace and lobby, one can see staff wearing masks and watching over the guests who, in return, can feel relaxed and safe and truly take a break from the virus. These adaptations aren't evident only in Pharos which managed to keep its relaxed and casual atmosphere, but in the other members of the Sunčani Hvar hotel group as well, as modelled by the best standards from the world's top hotel companies and chains.

New procedures and standards were defined in regards to COVID-19 itself. Every employee who enters the Sunčani Hvar system is either vaccinated or tested before entering, and special room cleaning procedures were introduced. Each room has a clean seal that guarantees that the room hygiene was checked and everything is good.

In addition, the unprecedented situation which dominated 2020 saw the hotel adapt in terms of pricing too and become more accessible to Croatian tourists. In 2021, the hotel also opened its doors a little further to being more family oriented, too.

As the summer season continues, every room is filled, and while that will depend on measures and other things, current announcements are good and could push Pharos as far as September. 

Croatian epidemiological measures also suspend events and gatherings, and regular DJ nights that used to entertain the guests at Pharos are for the moment a nostalgic memory.

However, with the aforementioned changes, the terrace is still alive, with more ambient music and the intimate socialisation of guests at the other tables.

With DJ nights not being appropriate to the current situation, Pharos experience is now switched to the Mediterranian ambient, to the Mediterranian garden. 

The offer of Pharos, which always attracted younger people, people hungry for adventure and recreation, also offers activities such as kayaking and surfing.

With sports and boat renting on offer, other activities Sunčani Hvar hotels offers include options known as ''Sun & Sea'' (where you can visit and cruise the islands, explore caves, and more) and ''Dine & Wine'' (which takes you on an impeccable journey of wine tasting accompanied by traditional Dalmatian Peka feasts), proving Hvar and its surroundings will never let you down when you want a holiday to remember.

Learn more about Hvar on our TC page.

For more about Suncani Hvar, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Monday, 17 February 2020

United Tourist Boards a Hvar Cycling Hit at Cosmo Bike Show in Verona

February 17, 2020 - The newly united Hvar tourism boards present their cycling credentials at the Cosmo Bike Show in Verona. 

Even though I no longer live on Hvar, I follow island life closely and still very much enjoy my three mandatory visits - Easter, summer and the family olive harvest in November. 

And it is nice to see how things are slowly changing for the better in many ways, and how some initiatives are starting to pay off. 


The main reason that the Total Project started way back in 2011 as Total Hvar was because the tourist infromation was terrible and the five island tourist boards acted independently and very rarely worked together. It has been a process to get there, but it is great to see that not only was Hvar one of the first clusters of tourist boards to unite as one Destination Management Organisation but that that partnership is really working. Joint promotion of the island of one umbrella may seem logical to the outsider, but it rarely happens in practice in Croatia. 

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The cooperation is already working well and was on show last week in Verona, as the island presented its joint cycling credentials at the Cosmo Bike Show, where some 15,000 people visited the Croatian stand. 

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"On the Italian market Hvar is an absolute hit this year, which is shown by more than 15000 visitors of the Croatian stand at the Cosmo bike show in Verona. And we are proud to promote Hvar bike tourism product with all Hvar tourist boards as one," said Petar Razovic, director of the Hvar Town Tourist Board. 

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The development of cycling tourism on Hvar has been part of a coordinated attempt to prolong the island's season and to diversify its product beyond the stereotypical sun, sea and nightlife summer season. 

It is a strategy that has taken a few years to develop, but one which is beginning to pay dividends, thanks to the efforts of various island stakeholders. 

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By far the biggest coup in this strategy has been the arrival for the last three years of Bahrain Merida (now renamed Bahrain McLaren), one of the biggest names in the sport, who have chosen Hvar for their winter training for the past three years. 

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A key part of the strategy has been the opening of the first dedicated bike hotel on the island, which was properly road-tested by the team from Bahrain, as 75 members of the team stayed at Pharos, hvar bayhill hotel during their first stay - here is an overview of the international cyclists putting the bike hotel through its paces

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The tourist board has developed a series of bike maps over the last few years, as well as marked trails, both for regular and MTB biking, and if you want to see true beauty and tranquiliity, I recommend you try the road right on top of the island - stunning. In addition to the official bike routes, plenty of enthusiasts are adding their own suggested routes. 


The international promotion of Hvar cycling has taken on several other aspects, including last year's successful Paros II Pharos cycle, which connected Hvar with the island of Paros in Greece, some 2,400 years after the Ancient Greeks from Paros first colonised Hvar.  

And with more than 4,4 million views on YouTube of the official Central Dalmatia promotional video of Brac and Hvar cycling, the message continues to spread. 

To learn more about the island, check out the Total Croatia Hvar in a Page guide


Friday, 20 December 2019

Croatian Hotel Included in Architectural Digest Best 2020 Hotel Designs

December 20, 2019 - Architectural Digest highlights some of the world's top hotels at the cutting edge of architectural design, including one from Hvar in their 2020 list. 

Leading architecture publication, Architectural Digest, has published its annual list of the best-designed new hotels for 2020, including Palace Elisabeth, hvar heritage hotel, on Croatia's sunshine island. 


Palace Elisabeth, part of the Suncani Hvar Hotels group and the first 5-star hotel on Hvar, opened its doors in September and has already become a member of the illustrious Leading Hotels of the World. Here is what Architectural Digest had to say:

A slice of royalty comes to Hvar Island in Croatia in the summer, when the former duke’s palace (dating to the 13th century), formally reopens its doors. Forty-five rooms and suites with Venetian and Austrian elements offer views of the Adriatic Sea; each room has murals hand-painted by the designer Oto Blaha—a rare touch. In 1899, the edifice was rebuilt for Empress Elisabeth, “Sisi.”

You can see the full Architectural Digest list here

The level of detail in the design is very impressive, and designer Oto Blaha explained the project in much greater detail in an interview with TCN earlier this year


The luxury hotel has made an impressive start since its 100-million kuna upgrade from the previous Hotel Palace and delightful opening party in October, and the international media are beginning to notice, with The Daily Telegraph the latest international media to endorse the historic hotel


That media interest is set to intensify across the Atlantic in January, as Suncani Hvar takes its message of luxury acccommodation on Croatia's premier island to the important North American market at the New York Times Travel Show in January. 

To learn more about Palace Elisabeth, visit the official website

To learn more about the island of Hvar, check out the Total Croatia Hvar in a Page guide

Saturday, 14 December 2019

Palace Elisabeth: Inside Hvar's First 5-Star Hotel (Picture Special)

December 14, 2019 - Palace Elisabeth, hvar heritage hotel opened its doors in September, the first 5-star hotel on the island. A photo tour of a luxurious step back in time. 

It is a very strange experience being a tourist in the place you live. After ten years living on Hvar, I had that first experience a few years ago when the foodie media experts from Gastronaut came to visit. Accommodation in Hotel Riva, dinner at Garful, a speedboat transfer to taste Zlatan Otok wines before another speedboat transfer to Palmizana and lunch at Meneghello - top Hvar experiences form the viewpoint of the tourist. 

It was a life I could get used to... 


Such occasions are rare for a blogger of course, but I was delighted to accept an invitation to the opening of one of the most eagerly anticipated events of the year on the island - the opening of Palace Elisabeth, the first 5-star heritage hotel on Hvar, and only the third 5-star hotel on a Croatian island. It was quite a night, and having covered tourism on Hvar for 8 years via Total Hvar, a particular honour to witness the start of the latest initiative to move the Hvar tourism story in a more elite direction. You can read a report of the opening party here.  

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So how does Palace Elisabeth look close up? Well, as you can see from the photo above, there are worse places to be sitting to take in another breathtaking Hvar sunset over the Pakleni Islands than on the balcony of the Penthouse Suite.

The hotel is a gorgeous mixture of modern luxury with intricate heritage detail. And it has quite a history, located on the place where organised tourism began in Europe back in 1868 and opposite the oldest public theatre in Europe, just across the main square, a theatre which also reopened this year after a 20-year renovation. 

Take a tour of Palace Elisabeth below, and learn more about it from the official Suncani Hvar website

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Monday, 30 September 2019

Great Year for Hvar Town's New Direction: Reflections, Plans with Petar Razovic, Tourist Board Director

October 1, 2019 - It has been a very good year for Hvar Town, which is successfully moving away from its party destination image in favour or heritage, culture and luxury. Hvar Tourist Board director Petar Razovic on the year so far and what is coming next. 


  1. You have been in the job for about 18 months now and this was your first full season. How do you feel and how was the season from your perspective?

From the business perspective, my first impression is that the 18 months have gone by so fast and that they were very dynamic. The baptism of fire was the ITB Berlin 2018 tourism fair, after that we celebrated the 150th anniversary of organized tourism in Hvar Town, we hosted the Days of Croatian Tourism (best organized yet!), and in 2019 we achieved the best tourist results in history since Croatian independence, as we will see 2% increase in arrivals and 1% increase in overnights. And finally, the first 5-star hotel, Palace Elisabeth, was opened, which finally put Hvar on the world map of top destinations, where it has always belonged.

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From a personal perspective, I'm happy that my quality work and the projects I started managed to win the sympathies of the tourist workers of Hvar.

  1. There has been a noticeable change in the presentation of Hvar, less on the party and more on heritage and culture. The reopening of the theatre, Arsenal and first 5-star hotel obviously helped with that perception. Tell us a little bit more.

The reopening of the renovated Arsenal and the oldest theatre on the Mediterranean improved the cultural and historical tourist offering. The renovation of the town Loggia, the clock-tower and the programme of events the Tourist board has planned for the next season on Fortica will bring to life the idea of "Hvar - fortress town".

The renovated monuments, as well as the Palace Elisabeth hotel, will be used for congress tourism as well, so Hvar Town will get the opportunity to prolong the tourist season, starting in the preseason on April 1st, and finishing on November 1st.

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  1. There has been a new arrangement with the town's nightclubs, which seemed to work well with no major incidents in the media for the first time in several years, Tell us about that relationship and how it is working.

Thanks to the town councillors who were the first to make an arrangement with the nightclub owners, this was the first year in many when we went through the main high season without any incidents. And that is the way we should develop the luxury night-time entertainment.

Hvar Town Tourist Board managed to make a deal on the marketing and promotion with the best-known night club in Hvar, to promote wines and gastronomy of Hvar and Croatia, which resulted with a reduced number of daytime parties in the town. I believe that the project aimed at improving the quality, in which the night clubs also participate, will increase the quality of hospitality services ass well. The safety and the reduced number of incidents can also be attributed to great cooperation between Hvar police, Hvar Town and the tourist board.

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  1. The renovation of the theatre etc above is just part of the town's upgrade. What other changes are coming?

The finalisation of the renovation of the town Loggia and the clock-tower, as well as the beginning of the replacement of the stone slabs on the main square (Pjaca), ie, complete renovation of the square, will create the perfect image of the historical identity of Hvar town.

Hvar Pjaca will finally shine bright, and will be the most beautiful postcard for the new brand identity of Hvar Town.

The reconstruction of the road entry points to the town, the reconstruction of Vira port, as well as the reduction of the passenger boats from Krilo Jesenice anchored by the Hvar port - those are all in the tourism development strategy for Hvar town.


  1. Hvar is also leading the way in terms of measuring the quality of its tourism with the IQM project. Can you tell us a little about that and the early results?

Hvar Town has started to conduct the IQM Destination HVAR project, which highlights the innovation, creativity and quality, binds the private and the public partnership with all the partners that influence the tourist development in a destination. We analysed the opinions of the inhabitants about the tourism in the destination, public presentations to the locals and our partners were held, the IQM Destination HVAR standards were adopted and a public call was put out, inviting any subjects to participate in the project. Currently, the online reputation of each IQM Destination HVAR project partner is being measured, also the online reputation of the destination, and we're just starting with the audits and individual education. During the winter, coordinating groups and group educations with the subjects will be conducted, the recommendations for improved business will be implemented and destination networking will be innovated.

The entire project is based on the individual approach to each participating subject, care and adjustment of the project to the needs of the inhabitants and the needs of the guest, the trends in tourism and responsible and sustainable destination management.

For the period of January 1st until September 30th, 2019, the results are as follows:

  • GRS (Guest Rating Score) 89.5/100; 1.7% improvement compared to the same period last year. Hvar Town's goal was to achieve 90/100,
  • There were a total of 10,655 reviews, which is 560 more than in the last year,
  • The service quality in IQM objects was given 96/100 score,
  • The price-to-service ratio was 94/100,
  • Location 92/100,
  • Cleanliness 93/100.

The quality of the hospitality objects was:

  • GRS is 89.4/100; increased by 1.6% compared to the same period last year,
  • The measurement was made based on the 3,413 customer reviews,
  • The food quality was graded at 88.7/100,
  • The service 91/100,
  • The price-to-service ratio was 85/100.

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  1. Minister Cappelli was recently on the island where he signed an agreement with the four Hvar mayors whereby all 5 island tourist boards will now work together to promote the island as one destination, which is great news. What changes do you think this will bring in the promotion of Hvar Town?

After a year of all of us talking together we finally signed the agreement of the project co-operation by the local tourist board from the Hvar island, which is in accord with the new law on the tourist boards and the promotion of Croatian tourism.

From now on, all of the tourist boards will work together to promote the island of Hvar as one unique destination. Our plan is to create a marketing strategy for the tourist development of the island, as well as a new branding of Hvar island.

The town of Hvar will continue our successful promotion on the UK and US markets, where we will present ourselves as a destination of rich and luxury cultural, food, wine, sports and entertainment tourism offer, as well as the leading Croatian destination for sustainable tourism development.

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  1. And lastly, looking ahead already to season 2020, anything new to look forward to?

As I follow the changes in travel trends, I foresee that the tourist year 2020 will be even more demanding than 2019.

I believe that only the continuation of the implementation of the projects already initiated can lead to the improved numbers in arrivals and overnight stays in Hvar Town, especially where we improve the quality of private accommodation.

We managed to agree upon the increased number of catamaran lines from Split each day, starting on April 1st (not an April fool's joke!), as well as the introduction of the direct catamaran line Hvar - Dubrovnik, which will support the Philadelphia - Dubrovnik flights each day, bringing even more American guests to Hvar.

Along with the town, we plan to additionally brand the famous inventor of dactyloscopy Ivan Vučetić, born on Hvar, to create a kind of CSI Hvar story, while on the level of the entire island we will additionally promote the UNESCO heritage (6 non-material heritages), especially the revitalisation of the Ager and "Za Križen" procession.

And, finally, of course, I announce that we will continue working successfully with Total Croatia News.

To learn more about the island of Hvar, check out the Total Croatia Hvar in a Page guide

Sunday, 22 September 2019

Hvar's Luxury Tourism Renaissance Continues: View from Opening of Palace Elisabeth Heritage Hotel

It has been quite a year for Hvar heritage and the realigning of tourism on Croatia's premier island, with the official opening of Palace Elisabeth, hvar heritage hotel on September 21, 2019 the latest jewel in its crown. 

It is a very strange feeling being a tourist in the place where you live. 

Of course, coming from Manchester, that feeling would be all the more strange, but after living on Hvar for 11 years, I had the opportunity to be a luxury tourist on the island back in 2014 as I joined a group of international foodie journalists from Gastronaut on a 3-day tour of the finest food and wine experiences on offer on Hvar, staying at swanky Hotel Riva on the fabled Hvar waterfront. It was quite a trip and opened my eyes to how the island was experienced by discerning guests expecting top quality. 



And although I swapped the sun and charms of Hvar for gorgeous Varazdin a couple of years ago, I left my heart on that idyllic Dalmatian island and am a regular visitor. I have watched Hvar's tourism story progress over the years, celebrating its many successes and highlighting its mistakes (at least in my opinion) and moves in the wrong direction. 

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A particular battleground for the future of tourism on Hvar has been the rise of party tourism on the island at the expense of a more elite tourism based on culture and heritage. Several factors have combined in the last year or so to help refocus Hvar's tourism once more on quality and a higher-end offer. 

And the first results are already in evidence. 

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Among the most important changes has been a stated change in direction of tourism strategy by official bodies, as well as an agreement between the nightclubs and the town on how best to co-exist to ensure the best tourism experience for all guests, as was explained earlier this year by new Hvar Tourist Board director, Petar Razovic in a TCN interview. While there is still work to be done, the results have been noticeable already in the first year. 

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A second key factor in Hvar's change of direction has been the resurgence of flagship hotel group, Suncani Hvar Hotels, the biggest and most influential company on the island, whose domination of the hotel scene on Hvar makes them a key player in the town's tourism fortunes. After the initial investment by ORCO group back in 2006 after its takeover of Suncani Hvar Hotels, the town enjoyed a return to the pre-war glory days of tourism, and Hvar was once more a chic destination frequented by the rich and famous. 

(The renovated Hvar public theatre - a video tour)

Financial difficulties by the hotel group and the rise of party tourism in recent years has brought Hvar's luxury and elite image into question, but the acquisition of, and considerable investment in Suncani's hotels by CPI Property Group, has coincided with the new official tourism focus on quality tourism. As the town was finalising high-profile and important heritage renovations such as the Arsenal and the Hvar Public Theatre, the oldest public theatre in Europe (opened in 1612, then reopened after a 20-year renovation in May this year), so too was Suncani Hvar investing heavily in its own heritage project. 


(The renovated Arsenal, one floor below the theatre)

Right across from the Arsenal and Europe's oldest public theatre, a short walk across the largest square in all Dalmatia, lies the latest piece of outstanding heritage, fully renovated at a cost of 100 million kuna (14 million euro) on the very location where organised tourism in Europe began back in 1868 - Palace Elisabeth, hvar heritage hotel, the first 5-star hotel on this exclusive island. Last night was the official opening, and I was fortunate to be invited to be a tourist on my adopted island once more, complete with complimentary overnight stay in one of the lovingly renovated 45 rooms and suites. Palace Elisabeth had been transformed from a 3-star hotel with 78 rooms to 5 stars with 45. In an era of tourism where more is increasingly bringing less, it was refreshing to see a company investing in quality and an approach to exceed guests' expectations. 

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And exceed expectations Palace Elisabeth certainly will in its first full year of operation in 2020. 

Having heard about progress throughout the summer, expectations were high. Palace Elisabeth was already a member of the prestigious Leading Hotels of the World Group, only the 5th hotel in Croatia to be included in the elite list. Its outstanding architectural design and adherence to heritage had been recognised by Architectural Digest, as Palace Elisabeth was included in its feature on why the Mediterranean is the destination of the year for design lovers. Apart from Mali Losinj, this was the first 5-star hotel on a Croatian island.

And it exceeded expectation. You can take a tour above in this video which I filmed about midday the following morning, which takes you through most of the public spaces on the first three floors. 

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As a local being a tourist in his own home, it was a strange feeling entering the hotel. It was as though I was leaving Croatia and going back in time to an age gone by, a golden age of Hvar culture. Empress Elisabeth was everywhere. The aristocratic benefactress of the original hotel which opened after her death on the same spot back in 1899 had been honoured more than 100 years later with her name given to the new luxury hotel. 

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The hotel is GORGEOUS. So much attention to detail, so many tiny touches of the past, it is truly an island experience on another level, and one which is set to meet the need of the luxury Hvar tourist in search of that little extra. The hand-painted murals, the individual hand-painted room names, the tiny reminders at every turn of an era gone by, it was delightful. 

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Time will tell, of course, whether or not the staff of Suncani Hvar can make the transition to 5-star level, but the initial signs are encouraging. In addition to using current staff, there has been widespread recruitment of hospitality specialists from abroad with the 5-star experience necessary to deliver the quality of service that such a hotel demands. We will soon have an interview with Palace Elisabeth manager, Deni Ohlsen-Dukic, with more on the running of the hotel. 


It was an honour to stay at the hotel, as well as a surprise given there were only 45 rooms in all, and while most were enjoying sea views, there was certainly nothing wrong with our fabulous view of the Spanish Fortress above the town, see above. In terms of media interest, it extended far beyond our little blog - writers for the New York Times, Travel + Leisure, Conde Nast Traveler and The Daily Telegraph were either in attendance or were recent guests. 

The opening party was quite an event, with a serious buffet and the wines of Zlatan Otok more than doing justice to the occasion (top tip - find out where to get the lamb chops with truffle sauce, absolutely outstanding. There were 150 guests in all, including Minister of Tourism Gari Cappelli, State Secretary for Tourism Tonci Glavina and Central Dalmatia Tourist Board Director, Josko Stella. 


A lovely evening on the Palace Elisabeth hotel terrace overlooking the harbour and the oldest public theatre in Europe. A truly gorgeous hotel, I concluded over the breakfast view above, and a VERY bright future for the direction of Hvar luxury tourism. 

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To learn more about Palace Elisabeth, visit the Suncani Hvar dedicated page.

To learn more about the island of Hvar, check out the Total Croatia Hvar in a Page guide

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